This past weekend was the “Scale the Strat” stair climb up the Stratosphere Tower in Las Vegas. I did this last year, and it was a fun little adventure. To add some extra interest this time, Kathleen decided to try doing it, too.
We headed out on Friday afternoon and got checked in at the Stratosphere. When Saturday morning came, we were ready. We got our numbers and got ready to go. There had been some concern that they weren’t going to let me use my metronome on the climb, since they said that they were not allowing cameras, mp3 players and other such things on the climb. But I found the tower operations manager and showed her my metronome. She said that as long as it was attached to me and not hand-held, and it didn’t obstruct my hearing, that it was all right. So I was good to go.
There were a lot more people doing the climb this year, and they had start times scheduled every 40 seconds from 11:00AM all the way to almost 2:00PM. I don’t know how they arrived at the order, but they had Kathleen going at 11:20, and I wasn’t scheduled to go until 1:24. So I got to see her off and then watched her progress on the monitor. They had cameras at the start and the finish, and also at about the 1/3 and 2/3 marks. I could tell that she was slowing down toward the top, but she kept going and made it up in 29:17, which is not bad for essentially no training at all.
When it was my turn to go, I turned on my metronome, which I set at 80 in a fit of optimism. And it was time to go. I’d read a paper about the fire safety design of the tower, and so I knew that there were enlarged landings at the 1/3 and 2/3 marks going up the tower core. This was useful, since they made for good landmarks. 1/3 of the tower is about the equivalent of 17-18 stories of a regular building, so the thirds made for manageable chunks of climbing.
About halfway up, I scraped my foot on the edge of one of the steps. I didn’t think anything of it, but when I was about halfway up that flight, I looked down and saw that the timing chip had fallen off my shoe. I looked back and saw it lying on the last landing. So I quickly ran back and picked it up. I carried it for a while before I figured out I could stuff it under my watch band. That set me back by at least 10 seconds, and possibly a bit more, but I managed to keep going and keep my pace. At the top I made a point to reach down and put my hand near the mat to be sure it would pick up the chip ID. Then I stumbled through the doorway and got down on the floor. I talked to the people running the computer to be sure they’d picked up my chip ID before I hauled myself out to a chair to sit down.
My time was 11:20, which turned out to be good for 28th out of 234 finishers, and it was also 15 seconds faster than my time from last year. So that was good, although I still wish I hadn’t had the chip-falling-off problem. Anyway, I made it into the top 50, so I qualified for the finals on Sunday.
On Sunday morning, I got ready to do it again. This time, I set the metronome on 76 in hopes that I’d be able to keep up with it better. My calculations said that that pace would still get me a good time if I could maintain it. I remembered this time to start my stopwatch at the beginning. My plan was do make the 1/3 mark by 3 minutes, the 2/3 mark at 6, and the top of the tower core at 9. Then the last 6 or so floors up to the observation deck would take whatever they took. But I’d figured out that the tower core climb is just about 725 feet, which is almost exactly the same height as the Wilshire-Figueroa building that I climbed in 8:42 last December. So I thought that this was a reasonable goal. Sadly, this was not to be. I made it to the 2/3 mark on schedule, but then my legs turned to lead and I kind of fell apart. I managed to keep moving, but it was a real struggle the rest of the way. In the end, I got to the top in 11:23, which is still faster than I went last year, but it wasn’t as fast as I know I’m capable of going.
So in the end, I was 3rd in my age group, just like last year. I can’t complain too much about that. All in all, it was a good adventure.